Rapid Reaction: New York Jets
October, 7, 2013
By Rich Cimini | ESPN.com
ATLANTA -- A few thoughts on the New York Jets' 30-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome:
What it means: The Jets (3-2), rebounding from an awul performance last week, moved into a second-place tie with the Miami Dolphins -- only one game behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East. They scored on their first three drives for the first time since 2008 and finished it off in dramatic fashion, as rookie quarterback Geno Smith led a game-winning, field-goal drive in the final two minutes. Nick Folk kicked the winner from 43 yards as time expired. This was a huge upset, one of Rex Ryan's biggest wins in a long time. They blew a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, but rallied behind their rookie.
Stock Watch: Smith has arrived. After 11 turnovers in four games, Smith was flawless (no turnovers) and showed his cool in the final 1:54, completing four passes to set up Folk. This was the performance the Jets had been awaiting, absolute poise in a hostile environment. Smith completed 16 of 20 for 199 yards, throwing three touchdowns. This in no way resembled the rattled kid who stunk it up last week. Ladies and gentlemen, the Jets found their quarterback.
Night of the Tight End: The Falcons' Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer, was virtually unstoppable -- 10 catches for 97 yards. Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow are not going to Canton, but they came up huge for the Jets. Cumberland and Winslow each scored a touchdown, compensating for a banged-up receiving corps. Cumberland (three catches for 79 yards) killed the Falcons with deep seams in the first half. Winslow, who almost did not play because of chronic knee pain, was targeted only once, but it was a one-yard touchdown reception on a play-action bootleg. Winslow did a toe-tap to keep both feet in the end zone, a wily veteran delivering a clutch play in the fourth quarter.
America, meet Mo: Folks in New York know all about defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson; now the entire country does, too. Wilkerson, exploiting a suspect offensive line, staged a dominating performance. The Falcons, with a new starter at left tackle, could not block Wilkerson, who created the Jets' first takeaway since Week 1 -- a strip sack in the third quarter that set up a field goal. He felt he deserved Pro Bowl recognition last season. He may have earned a trip to Hawaii on the Monday night stage, spearheading a defensive effort that included a goal-line stand at the end of the first half.
Defensive wrinkle: Ryan changed his approach, using more two-high safety looks than usual. That's not a staple of the Ryan playbook, but he took the conservative approach on the back end with the hope of eliminating big plays. It worked, as the Jets held wide receiver Julio Jones to eight catches for 99 yards, but they got gashed underneath by Matt Ryan who completed 36 of 45 passes with 319 yards.
What's ahead: The Jets return home to face the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4), who are coming off a bye week.